I shrugged my shoulders, a gesture that was lost in our telephone connection. "I guess because I have some desire to show life as it really is? In all it's craziness?" It was a question. Because I didn't know why.
"It just encourages them when you take their photos doing those things, you know."
I've been thinking about this a lot lately. I think I'm finding a new answer.
The weather here is beautiful. In the 60s and sun. Don't be too jealous, it's suppose to change tomorrow. Snow. But today, Noah wanted to go outside. In the front yard. He likes the front yard because there is no fence, and he can freely chat with everyone walking past. I dislike the front yard because there is no fence, and I must chat with everyone walking past.
I talk him into playing in the side yard, where there is a fence. It takes some work, but I win when he trips over a bush in the front yard and falls on the prickly wood mulch.
He wants to bring the sidewalk chalk, but there is no concrete for coloring in the side yard. I concede, because I'm tired of arguing, tired of looking up anxiously every time I hear the sound of a car, and tired of feeling the need to be neighborly.
In the side yard, the furniture moving commences. It's a ritual that I can not stop. Every time we are in the side yard, he MUST push all of the deck furniture around the deck and make a 'boat.' Here is his boat.
[photo removed]It drives me batty: the scratchy-draggy sound of heavy wooden furniture being pushed across the deck we installed ourselves less than a year ago. The fact that the deck is already high and YET he has to make a slightly higher perch for himself... (he's probably still trying to chat with the neighbors)... And oh, the huge the scratches IN the deck! Breathe, breathe, it's a deck – an outdoor deck – it's just a THING, I tell myself.
I suggest other activities. No. I suggest I help him. No. Wants to do it himself. I tell him, No, not this time, Bud.... But, Mommy... Arguing is sport for Noah. It has been since he was born. He LOVES to argue. I've said it before, I'll say it again: it's exhausting.
Mattias doesn't have the same need to push around furniture. Instead, he pushes around sand. His front loaders quickly leave sand in unwanted piles all over the deck and in the plants.
"Mattias, no. Sand stays in the sandbox! Come, clean up the sand." Mattias doesn't argue. He also listens. He gets a little broom and sweeps. Part of it, of course, is that he's younger, and part of it is his personality. Mattias does not love to argue.
"Mommy, I'll just mark the spots where Mattias put the sand," says Noah helpfully. He begins making green chalk slashes across piles of sand on the deck.
No. No! NO! NO!! I think. But I bite my tongue because
How many times will I say No? How many Nos do they need to hear? Surely, as some point the Nos are as frustrating to me as the they are to them. I imagine that every No I use will bounce off them and bounce back to me as some point in the distant or not-so-distant future. I try to save my Nos for the really important things...
Mostly, I redirect. Reorient. Again and again and again.
Noah's grandparents have been predicting this for years: that this very difficult behavior will be an advantage as he grows older. At 58 months, we are just beginning to get an idea of what those advantages might be. Noah is NOT highly susceptible to peer pressure. He goes about, doing his own thing, finding – or even making – his own place. He becomes more creative and more confident every day. Once he knows want he wants (and that happens very quickly), and he's ready to get it. And, to the best of my knowledge, he is remarkably peaceful and gentle in arguing his desires. It does appear to be the kind of determination, self awareness, and kindness that will bode him well in his adulthood.
But it's also a determination that makes me clench my teeth.
That's when I pull out the camera. Instead of entering a battle of the wills, instead of laying out consequence after consequence that may be as miserable in implementation as they were in conception, instead of filling our interaction with Nos, I get my camera. I take photos of his headstrong projects. I stick myself behind the camera to keep my cool. I don't yell. I don't grind my teeth. I don't say No. I shoot photos.
Afterall, what he's doing, it isn't really wrong. At least, not wrong enough for me to fight and yell. It's not wrong enough for me to waste too many Nos. At worst, what he's doing is destructive (to the deck, a THING). But he sees it as constructive (he's made a boat). What if I respond to his constructive impulse with anger? If he doesn't appreciate that his play undermines or damages our work, is my frustration the best way to teach this?
With the camera in my hands, I keep my cool. I let him fulfill whatever part of him it is that needs to do build a 'boat.' My frustration does not become his frustration. The camera buffers.
Later, when he is finished, we will put the furniture back in place. We will sweep the chalk off the deck boards. We will replace any sand (that Mattias missed) into the sandbox.
The scratches in the deck will be a casualty. But I like to think Noah's peaceful, confident determination will be my reward.
I hope, oh, do I hope.